I remember April 24th, 2017 as though it were yesterday. This was hands down one of the most mentally defeating days of my journey. I woke up early that morning, 5:30 am to be precise, with the hospital on my mind because it was about that time for me to check-in for another 6-day chemotherapy treatment. I tossed and turned all night, waking up every hour on the hour in complete tears knowing that I had to separate from my family once again. As much as I wanted to enjoy the final night of sleeping in my own bed next to my husband, I was sick to my stomach and sad beyond words that I had to move out of my own home, yet again, for treatment.
When I realized that sleep was no longer an option, I decided to get up and get myself together. I picked my clothes out for the day and packed my hospital bag as I sobbed the entire time. It was as though someone had died because truth is told, every time I had to check into the hospital, I felt as though another part of me was dying along the way. Me being me, a woman who was used to being so strong and resilient for a living, I tried everything within my power to keep my true feelings from my husband. I knew that this process of separation was just as hard on him as it was on me. As soon as I heard him waking up, I quickly ran into the restroom in the hopes of gaining control of my feelings, but instead, I cried so hard that I had a full-on anxiety attack. I poured my heart and soul out on the bathroom floor. I desperately gasped for air to stop myself from hyperventilating because I was so upset with this process and so tired of leaving my family. After a long cry attack and a moment of prayer on the ground, I finally gained enough strength to gather myself and proceeded to get ready for my morning hospital check-in. I never put much effort into how I looked upon check-in knowing just how much the treatment was about to tear me down. However, that day I wanted to try something different. I wanted to get dressed and make myself feel good and try to mentally psych myself into believing that I was “normal.” So, I threw my wig on, put on a cute matching legging fit, and went about my day.
Every time I checked into the hospital, which was every fourteen days, I had to call the oncology unit to make sure they had a bed available for me. I also had to determine what time I had to take my walk of shame, I mean check-in. Just like any other day, I made my morning call at 8:00 am and was hit with the mysterious news that my chemotherapy treatment was not approved by my medical insurance. This was a complete shock to me because this had never been an issue. While part of me was so thrilled that I could not check-in at that moment, the other part of me was pissed knowing that this would set me back and throw off my schedule for completion. I took my anxiety medication and allowed the nurses and hospital team to figure things out. Finally, at noon, my husband received the dreaded call from the doctor’s office that things were worked out and I should head over for treatment. The news made me so sick to my stomach, knowing that I had to return.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital, I immediately became angry. Angry that I was back. Angry that my cancer had still not gone away. Angry that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from school. Angry that my husband had to sleep alone for the next week. Angry with life in general. I did not want to see anyone, nor speak to anyone, because the truth was I was not as excited to see the hospital staff as they were to see me; I knew my face vividly showed my emotions. However, I just could not help it this time around. I stormed into my hospital room with so much rage. As I was getting situated, I looked upon the whiteboard to see who my day shift nurse was, and instead of seeing the nurse’s name, I saw a message that read “something about the name Jesus,” which instantly calmed every ounce of anger in my spirit. My soul quickly snapped out of it and I relaxed to enjoy the last few minutes I had with my husband before he had to pick up our daughter from school. We said our goodbyes as the waiting game began for my treatment to get started.
For some reason, I felt as though my spirit was truly battling itself because nothing seemed to be going right. The nurses attempted to put my picc line in place and soon realized that the scar tissue on my veins was so bad from prior treatment that they could not place a picc line in, which was a first. For the reason that my treatment had to go on, I had to allow them to place a central line in my neck so that we could move forward, which was a process within itself. After two failed attempts, I was informed that my central line had to wait until the next day, which made me scream on the inside feeling so defeated by everything that was taking place that day. In true Nae form, I wasn’t having it. I told them that I was going home if they could not figure it out because there was no need for me lying in the hospital alone if my treatment could not move forward. Lo and behold, another team came in and they got things figured out after hours of preparation and attempts.
When the doctors finally left my room, I was able to get more comfortable and settled into my confinement. One part of me felt so defeated knowing that I had been there for hours and my treatment had not yet started due to all of the day’s complications. The other part of me reminded myself of the message on the board. So I fixed my invisible crown and reminded myself of how far I had come and how I was closer to the finish line than the starting point. I took long, deep breaths to try to keep my composure. Shortly after, my night nurse finally came in the room so that we could officially get things started. Oh boy was I excited to see her knowing that the countdown could officially begin as to the number of hours I would have the medication pumping through my body.
Upon the nurse’s entry, we said a quick hello, which was very strange for a nurse that I had seen so many times. Usually, the nurses would chat with me, catch up with me, laugh with me, and even cry with me. However, on this night the nurse seemed a bit different. As she went on with her questionnaire to get things started, she looked up at me in complete shock. It was almost as though she saw a ghost and said, “Oh my gosh Shanee’, I didn’t even recognize you with a wig on. You look so different.” At that very moment, my entire soul shattered. My heart popped out of my chest. I could feel the tears forming in my eyes as I processed what she said to me, thinking, did she really just say that? Do I look that different with hair? No, the hell she didn’t! Who says that? My mind went on and on as tears started to fall down my face with no sense of control and no end in sight. She went on to ask me questions and I answered to the best of my ability as I stared out of the window crying, trying everything in my power not to make eye contact. I was so devastated. I was so hurt. I was so sad that the one time I attempted to wear my wig and not show my bald head, my own nurse told me she didn’t even recognize me. It was as though she personally confirmed that people now only recognized me in the eyes of a sick cancer patient and my heart couldn’t handle this reality. While she didn’t recognize me looking partially decent with hair, I never recognized myself without hair, so this harsh truth did not sit well with me at all. I cried my eyes out all night staring at my reflection through the window, not knowing who I was even looking at. I cried so much that night that I cried my eyes dry, which I didn’t even know was possible.
While I know her comment was not meant to be hurtful, her comment shattered my soul. Her comment spoke volumes. Her comment made me question every ounce of beauty I thought I was feeling and made me feel like an absolute beast. Her comment damaged a part of me that I never knew existed.